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Gamespot Interview
About the Discworld games...


[Used with permission from GameSpot UK (http://www.gamespot.com/index.html).]

Terry Pratchett is one of Britain's most successful and prolific writers. His 23rd Discworld novel, Carpe Jugulum, has just been published in hardback, the one before that The Last Continent has yet to go paperback, and he's already working on the 24th in the series, The Fifth Elephant.

And that's leaving aside his other books the Truckers series, Johnny and the Dead, and Good Omens, co-authored with Neil Gaiman. Pratchett's a one-man cottage industry except that he's so successful, he's probably more of a small manor house industry. And his fanbase is likely to get bigger with the release of GT Interactive's Discworld Noir game on PC.

It's not that he made huge amounts from the last two Discworld games, but he says he raked in enough to add a much needed extension to Chez Pratchett. 'I built myself a new office with the royalties from the first game and I built a second office with the royalties from the second to put the letters in.' The letters he refers to are the sacks of fan mail he gets to which he religiously responds.

Pratchett is very aware that he has an enormously loyal audience fanatical, even. That's one of the reasons he was happy that Discworld Noir centres on a completely new character, Lewton the Private Eye.

'It would save me a certain amount of difficulty if we had characters who hadn't appeared before and wouldn't necessarily do so again. I don't have to be as careful as I would if the hero was an established character.'

Because Lewton is outside the shared culture of the Discworld novels, he doesn't have to worry about contradicting something from one of the books and, as Pratchett knows full well, fans are sticklers for accuracy. 'You can imagine the sort of letters I would have got,' he says wryly.

While he has had considerable involvement in the development of Discworld Noir, he has not been as closely involved with this game as he was with its two predecessors. 'I've been less involved with each game, because the people working on them have become more and more familiar with the Discworld,' he says. 'With the first Discworld game, if you had subtracted me from the equation, it would have been much less Discworld-ly. That's not the case this time round.'

Of course, strictly speaking, Discworld Noir is not the third Discworld computer game but the fourth. The first was created in the dim and distant past, through the mists of time to the very dawn of the home computer age the early 80s. Pratchett is a computer buff, and has been for years. His first home computer was a Sinclair ZX81, 'with rubber keys and blocks marching across the screen'.

He remembers the first Discworld game fondly. 'Back in the days of the Speccy and the Amstrad, Fergus McNeill wrote a Colour Of Magic game. It's now much sought after by people with Spectrum emulators...'

Fifteen years on, and Terry Pratchett seems just as happy about the latest Discworld game as he was about that first one. But what about the next game? 'It's in the lap of the gods. There's a lot of point-and-click and a lot of talking in this one but what else can you do with a detective game? Even Lara Croft has to do certain things get object A, transport it to location B, pull lever C then door D will open. If there is another Discworld game, then I want it to be as different as possible from what's gone before. Perhaps multiplayer...'

This time round, Terry produced a story outline and a first draft of the script, which he passed on to GT Interactive and Perfect Entertainment, the game's developer. He wanted the game to revolve round a detective story, but happily admits that the idea to make it a Discworld-based film noir adventure game came from the developers. 'I wanted to base it on the Ankh-Morpork. They suggested film noir because it gives much more flexibility.'

It also opens the game up to people who may not be intimately familiar with the Discworld. 'Even if you're only 18 years old, you know something about Film Noir even if it's just from seeing Bladerunner,' Pratchett observes.

The film noir atmosphere also fits in well with the feel of the later Discworld books, Pratchett thinks. He's been moving away from the throwaway picaresque style of the early novels towards something much darker in tone (although still with jokes). It's very obvious that he has gained confidence as a writer with each book, and as a result feels able to explore quite complex themes.

For example, Pratchett is obsessed with the way we create myths, and loves to play with the power of ideas in his books. Indeed, much of the humour in Carpe Jugulum comes from the way the book's villains, a family of vampires, have managed to overcome such things as fear of garlic and holy symbols and the inability to cross running water through the use of psychology. Such things are just learned reactions, after all, and can be unlearned...

'I've considered werewolves seriously,' he says, leaning forward in his chair and looking, well, serious for a moment. 'Vampires and werewolves: they're fair game. There's very little genuine historical fact about vampires and werewolves. Everything we know about them is meta-myth, created by the movies. Think what it would be like for genuine werewolves to able to flick between human and wolf form. But what happens if you spend too long in one form? If you spend 23 hours a day as a wolf and only one as a human, it's going to be very difficult, when you're in man form, not to lick your balls all the time...'


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